satsang with Swami Sitaramananda
Key words: Karma, selflessness, selfishness, relationships, freedom, liberation, self-realization, non-violence, truthfulness, contentment, self-control, detachment, dharma, moksha, love, open heart, charity, spiritual tradition, religious teaching.
What is karma? Understand life karmic journey:
Karma is action and consequence of action. It Implies that we are born as consequence of past action and thought. Action comes also in terms of thoughts. This life has a cause and what we do in this life will have a consequence in the future. So, we have to see the big picture to understand your life at the present. There is a reason for certain things to happen that way, and there is a way you can then get out of it, alleviating it.
Karma is a general term that indicates everything, indicates your life. Your life comes as a consequence of something and whatever you choose and do will bring about some consequence in the future.This life is an opportunity to make a different choice considering the same thoughts and similar circumstances. Now, you have been given a different choice. Now you can set your foot in the right direction for a better future life.
Bhagavad Gita said that nothing that you have done or studied or any effort that you have made will go to waste. It is a chain of lives and you improve your life slowly. To remedy to Karma, you need to understand that this personality, this life is not really the real picture. You have to learn to see the big picture of your soul’s life. It is the history of your soul.
Karma has many aspects. You think wrongly that karma is something that’s happens to you and that there’s good karma and bad karma, but it’s not correct thinking. There’s no good karma, there’s no bad karma. It’s only your journey of accumulating knowledge and decreasing ignorance. Your life journey is to accumulate knowledge and decrease ignorance
Karma comes from desire and desire comes from ignorance, i.e. not knowing who you are, so you would just project an idea of who you are. You need to understand that you are already everything, complete and whole , you are the immortal Self, satchidananda Atman . Remember the Self. You know that nobody can hurt you. Nobody can touch you. It’s only the cosmic play. Really, you are untouched and you’re unhurt.
The journey of life is the journey of purification for you to get to understand this Truth. You keep thinking that you are this limited self and therefore have plenty of desire which continuously will create new karma. And you keep evolving in the cycle of karma we call the wheel of birth and death which never ends.
The main thing to remedy to karma is the Karma Yoga attitude. It’s not about other people. When you do karma Yoga, it’s not that you do service to other people. Of course, you have to have an attitude of service and of love, but really you are working out your karma, it is for yourself. It is the smartest way to turn your karma to dharma. Karma is that which binds you because of your inherited tendency of thinking in the past, and dharma is that which liberates you by the right thinking about your duty and what you are supposed to be doing in this life.
For example, before you feel that lying and manipulating a situation will be to your advantage. That’s your pattern, that’s the way you think. Now, you were given the same situation but you choose honesty and straightforwardness and you find strength in having good character, even though you might be tempted to cheat away and nobody would know, but you will choose a different ethical attitude, to honor your duty and your responsibility. This is the way you work out and heal your karma.
Three guidelines on how to heal karma. Healing is to restore wholeness.
- Consciously, care about your present duty. Everyone has a specific duty in life. You consciously do the best you can to fulfill your duties, not following the likes and dislikes of your subconscious mind. You exercise your conscious choice and turn Karma to Dharma.
- Be detached and be the observer. Assert your immortal Self: It means, while in action, in the battlefield of life, when the karma is pulling you down and it is difficult, keep your head above water and keep an eye on your self- realization goal, on your fulfillment. Keep thinking: “I am satchidananda, and I’m actually progressing.”
- We need to accept all tests and challenges in this life as only temporary. With karma, we have to accept, not run away. If you do so, the karma will move through faster and will not create so much damage and suffering and imprint in your mind.
Twelve areas of karma and how to heal
These areas of karmas came from the framework of vedic astrology which is the science of karma. Of course, this is only a guideline considering that there are it is multitudes of ways and scenarios how the karma can play out.
1. The body, yourself : The body is like a battlefield on which the karma is playing. You’re born as a male or as a female, tall or short, black or white, beautiful or handicapped, with a lot of prana or innately weak, whatever it is, it’s part of the setup of the karma. The body is limited and can’t do all what you want, it goes through the process of growth and of aging. The body is an instrument and it serves the purpose of your birth .
Remedial: Accept the body and cherish it as your precious vehicle to fulfill your purpose, your dharma. Honor the body and not mutilate it. You are not the body but you need to take care of it. Try to increase prana in the body and conserve prana for a long meaningful life. Try to not over-care of the body, not over identifying with it, not using it for wrong purpose. With the body, you have the organs of action whose function are elimination, reproduction, moving, grasping, speaking. Use the organs of action and organs of perception, the senses, correctly, not over use them.
2. The family of origin, your relatives, your financial resources, your mouth, your speech. Your family of origin can be supportive or you can be deprived of family support. The way you eat can be supportive to your life or it can be problematic. Your speech can be supportive to you or not. You can be deprived of financial resources to sustain your life or you can be wasting your money.
Remedials: Nurture healing voice (connect your voice and your soul and express it, like when chanting kirtan) , healing speech (you heal yourself and others through speech and not aggravating relationships) , healing food (honor the body and not harming the body), use financial resources for healing purposes. Be grateful for support received. Give support to others when you yourself have not received support. Remedy to the karma of not having money by donating money, so that money karma can no longer be the criteria to make you suffer by your feeling either greedy, needy or feeling lack. Be free of that idea that money is the purpose of my life. Do not waste money in sensual search for pleasures. Learn to think about it correctly to work out your karma.
3. Communication skills, your own self-will, the way you express yourself, your relationships with your children. This is about reaching out beyond yourself and your family of origin. Some people have problems of communications and expression, some have extraordinary skill of communication, enjoy themselves and give joy to others through their communication. Your creativity, your way to connect and express your higher mind can be through your children, progeny or your intellectual and spiritual expressions.
Remedials: Practice Compassionate communication skill . Learn to express truthfully your needs and listen to others. Learn to surrender to God’s will and seeing the big picture about your life and the life of others to remedy to blockages in communications. Help to connect people or networking people for a higher purpose. Take care of your children as instruments of God’s creativity and not as your possessions. Seeing the sacred and the divine all around.
4. Your core heart and your peace of mind, your happiness. What makes you happy, your relationship with your mother, your home, your house or property. Your heart and peace of mind can be disturbed. You can be sad, depressed, angry, restless, needy, emotional, isolated and have emotional difficulty and bad relationship with your mother.
Remedial: Practice openness of heart, learn to love, practice contentment, open your heart and have a loving disposition. Remedy to your difficult relationship with your mother and thus with your own emotions by devoting yourself to the divine Mother. Heal all your heart wounds, forgive, forget and keep loving and being at peace with yourself and with all. This is the key to liberation from karma. Try not to be fearful, victimized, defensive or manipulative of emotions.
5. the way you use your intelligence to follow dharma, your creativity, your education. Your intelligence is to understand the way how the universe works in order for you to follow your dharma. You might have the karma to have good education, good intellect and have power of discernment and discrimination coming from past merits. You might inherit blockages in your study and your spiritual study, coming from past demerits (wrong thoughts from before that block your knowledge)
Remedials: Care to follow guidance, ethics, and dharmic behavior, spiritual education, study of scriptures. Purification of intellect through Mantras.
6. Your obstacles and over-coming obstacles in terms of your own weaknesses, creating debts, enemies or diseases.
Because you have weaknesses so you create obstacles to yourself. These obstacles can create debts, enemies or diseases to yourself. Everyone has weakness, more or less pronounced. Everyone needs to pro-actively remedy to your weaknesses by practicing the 4 paths of Yoga that will help strengthening any weakness that you might have.
Remedials: Strengthen your weaknesses to overcome obstacles, proactively leading the guidance of Yoga Life (understanding the law of nature) and the 4 paths of Yoga to self-develop, self-discipline, and achieve self-purification thus diminishing impact of weaknesses.
See obstacles, conflicts and diseases as an opportunity to review your lifestyle and negative thinking. Learn the principles of health and live according to the law of nature which is the divine law. Learn to work selflessly (doing karma Yoga), to give instead of to consume, to be disciplined instead of being indulgent. Learn to see your own atman in other. Stop fault finding. Learn to forgive and have the vision of unity. Turn your weakness into strength.
7. Your enjoyment coming from good or problematic association with partner in business or in life. Story of rejection, story of abandonment, story of disloyalty, unfaithfulness, betrayal, treachery, infidelity, untrustworthiness. All these are manifestations of the karma of your relationship with the partner.
Remedials: Learn to see the Self in others, treat others as you would treat yourself. Detachment instead of passion Learn to honor commitment and responsibilities.
8. Karma with the hidden forces in the psyche and the astral world. The karma there will manifest not in your life but it is in your mind. The working of your psyche can bring spiritual insight, intuition, and enlightenment, revealing way to liberation, leading to freedom from suffering or you can become victim to dark forces in your mind that would bring miseries to your own self and others.
Remedials: learn to uplift yourself through the power of Satsanga and association with wisdom, wise people or good people, so you can get out of your own psyche. Renounce siddhis, occult practices, dark associations, exploration of astral realms.
9. Your good fortune and luck or lack of blessings and luck coming from your good or negative association with spiritual or religious teachers. Your religion and your faith. Your good dharmic guidance received or negative guidance. Your good relationship with your father or father figure.
Remedials: Cultivation of respect of teachers and spiritual traditions, practice of humility in the pursuit of Self Realization. Discrimination in the choice of teachers or guide, avoiding tamasic and rajasic teachers and methods. Abstention from guiding people when not having purified oneself. Become a sattvic teacher and a sattvic student. Replace negative relationship with birth father with the positive relationship with the Divine Father. Cultivate trust, faith and security of being protected, remove doubts and anxiety. Remember that “Paths are many but Truth is One”, “Names and forms are many, but God is One”.
10. Karma about work and career, about acquisition of name and fame or lack of recognition, about positive or negative contribution to the welfare of society: You can derive satisfaction or unhappiness from your work, have sense of purpose and mission or lack of sense of your place in life, lack of fulfillment and recognition. Not knowing what your career is.
Remedials: Development of selflessness through the practice of selfless service (Karma Yoga) is the remedial to purposelessness. Patanjali said that non-acquisitiveness, absence of greed or realizing that material possessions are not the end and goal of life will help you to discover your purpose of birth. Name and fame are illusory so renunciation of ego and name and fame will help you to counteract that karma. Become the instrument to Higher will instead.
11. Karma with your community, society, environment, your friends and your gains and success in life. Your environment can be conducive to your growth, success and fulfillment or it can be detrimental to your growth and success in life. It might be that you will meet with unfavorable environment and society, or the opposite, you will be favored by the circumstances and connections.
Remedials: Be an honorable contributing member of the community, care for the environment (nature, people, animals), care for friends and connections. Respect the web of life. Avoid taking advantages of society or environment, people and friends. Avoid unethical behaviors to gain financial success at the expenses of others.
12. Karma with losses and unfortunate events: Story of sufferings coming from material losses or separation from loved ones, story of losing one’s self over to addictions, pleasures and expenditures. Lack or loss of self-confidence, lack or loss of success and fulfilment. These losses might lead you to hospitals, jails, ashrams, or make you go in exile or in foreign countries.
Remedials: Replace the loss of one’s self in a negative manner (addiction, indulgence, expenditures) with the positive loss of oneself in a positive manner (through charity, selflessness). Counteract through active practice of humility and charitable actions, volunteer losing of ego through selflessness and charity, volunteering in hospitals, jails, ashrams, or service to the forlorn , the down trodden and the homeless.
17 guidelines in working out of karma
1. Detachment from the plays of karma: Learn wisdom and courage then and there while living our life. Do not run away from battle, or pretending that it doesn’t exist, or suppressing the issue, or not doing self-enquiry. Observe the plays of karma and find your Atman/Self through it, through the battle of life. You might not be able to change the karma right away, but you can make self-effort. All efforts will not go in vain.
2. Turning Karma to Dharma: be detached and selfless. How do you detach? take a distance and do not take yourself too seriously, that’s how you alleviate your karma. Alleviate yourself from all ideas about being good or bad at something, remove expectations about yourself and others. Remember the Self. Remove fears. Know that in reality, you are untouched and you’re unhurt. Be peace and be Love. All else is just purification.
3. balancing likes and dislikes tendencies of the mind: adapt, adjust, accommodate, reduce strong egoistic tendencies stemming from misidentification.
4. exercise conscious choices avoid subconscious impulses
5. Care for the present duty: Accept the tests and challenges.You are learning. Do your Duty and not someone else’s duty.
6. Always keep our eyes on the goal of Self-Realization through Satsanga and scriptural study. Keep accumulating self-knowledge and decreasing ignorance (spiritual ignorance is not knowing the Truth about Self and Reality).
7. Increase plus, decrease minus ( increase Knowledge, decrease ignorance) There’s no good karma, there’s no bad karma. It’s only your journey of accumulating knowledge and decreasing ignorance. Life is a series of plus and minus: doing things that will help yourself to get out of ignorance is called “plus” and doing things that would repeat your pattern is called “minus”. Eventually, the balance of plus and minus will show your progress and eventually will liberate you from karma.
8. Practice of Prayer and humility: You need to pay, “I don’t want anything, it is your will. It’s not my will. I do the best I can, I offer the result.” Have a prayerful attitude day after day, breath after breath, while doing your best and doing your duty. Avoid pride and presumption. Increase faith instead.
9. Surrendering to the karma helps it to be remedied faster. Karma will finish when you do not notice it anymore and there is no more suffering. If you are suffering from something, you’re learning. If the suffering is recurring, but it’s also alleviating with time, that means that you are progressing. The True Self is blissful and not suffering.
10. Be patient, it’s a gradual change of karma. Alleviation of karma means that you will refine your idea of how you think about things. So, it’s your thought that creates the karma and to relieve yourself from karma, you have to have different thinking or different attitude about life, about things, about yourself, and about others.
11. Develop the attitude of being an instrument only, and offer the result of your actions, in praise or censure, in success or failure. Keep the mind even. Think, “it’s not about me, it’s not about them. It’s not about whether I like them or not like them; it has nothing really to do with it.” You offer the results of your actions; that means you offer this karma up in order for you to continue to progress. Do the best you can, make the effort but learn to let go. Do your duty and persevere, this too shall pass.
12. Do not compare yourself to others: Every karma is unique, don’t compare yourself to others. Avoid envy, jealousy, contempt, judgement and uncompassionate actions or thoughts when you do not understand the karma of someone. Also avoid blame and expectation that people has to understand your struggles. Don’t judge them, don’t condemn them, and know that they’re making the best that they can in the context of their own karma.
13. Avoid competition, ambitions, desires: In our feverish world of competition, where everybody is looking for answers outside, we believe that our happiness is in the material possessions, and sensual comforts. We think that our happiness has to be at the expense of somebody else and we compete with each other. We make sure that we get the best place, and the best part of the cake. We fear that someone else’s happiness is at our expense. We don’t like people that are happy because we are not happy. We believe in external success and not internal peace as success. We’ve been pulled in all directions by our ambitions, and by our desires, and we suffer from disappointments and angers that follow desires.
14. Do not worry about the future: Take care of your duty in the present, and the future will be taken care of: so, don’t worry about the future. Don’t plan too much. Be in the present, and then your long-term future will be taken care of; The moment that you release yourself from your karmic knot, then “a brilliant future is awaiting you”, according to Swami Sivananda. Dharmic life brings happiness.
15. Understand that Karma is endless, be wise: In the pursuit of happiness, we have made many mistakes and have created endless karma. The greater the level that you understand that the karma is endless, is your level of wisdom. Karma is endless and the cycle of births and deaths is difficult to break. We have gone through many lifetimes of ignorance thus the imprints in the mind are deep and the suffering experienced can be intense as the result.
16. Turn Within: happiness is within. Yogis affirm that in order to find happiness, we need to achieve peace of mind first. This means that we need to eventually recognize that there is no end to the desires, that the objects desired, in fact, are our own projection of our own illusions externally. We eventually learn to turn within, avoid the love and hate, the up and down, the dual tendency of attraction and repulsion, and always running towards something or running away from something. This is when Yoga and meditation come into our life and we catch the taste of peace, and understand, finally, that it comes from within. We decide then, consciously, to make an effort. to be calm and to focus within.
17. Yoga is the path of moderation, Yoga shows the way: The path of Yoga is the path of moderation. How Yoga will help? Yoga has two keywords that are very helpful for you in this journey of Hatha Yoga and karma yoga: “effort and relaxation”. How do you apply? Make an effort and at the same time be ready to surrender, to accept; that’s the way you get out of the karma. Learning Yoga will help you to slow down; slow down and accept, relax, and realize that seeking happiness outside of ourselves leads us nowhere. Yoga shows us a way out. By practicing regularly, your life’s mission will be revealed to you.
Swami Sitaramananda is a senior acharya of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers and is director of the Sivananda Ashram Vedanta Yoga Farm, California and the Sivananda Yoga Resort and Training Center, Vietnam. She is acharya of China, Taiwan, and Japan as well. Swamiji is the organizer and teacher of the Sivananda Yoga Health Educator Training (SYHET) program, an 800-hour program on yoga therapy, accredited by the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT).
Swami Sitaramananda is the author of “Essentials of Yoga Practice and Philosophy” (translated in Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Russian), “Positive Thinking Manual”, “Karma Yoga Manual”, “Meditation Manual”, “Swamiji Said, a collection of teachings by Swami Vishnu” in His Own Words. She is responsible for the Vietnamese translation of “Completed Illustrated Book of Yoga” (CIBY) and “Meditation & Mantras” by Swami Vishnu. Many of her video & audio lectures on Yoga life, philosophy, and psychology as well as articles and webinars can be found on this website.
Swami Sita is an ardent supporter of the integration of the Vedic sciences such as Vastu, Jyotish, Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedanta. She is an international teacher of the Sivananda Yoga Teachers’ Training Courses and Advanced Yoga teachers’ Training courses, as well as Meditation and Vedanta & Silence Courses both in Sivananda Ashrams in Vietnam and in Grass Valley, CA.